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THE

BAPTIST MAGAZINE.

JANUARY, 1857.

A. DOMESTIC HOMILY ON THE PAST YEAR.

BY THE REV. W. LANDELS.

The close of the year, like the striking of our clock, reminds us of the flight of time, but much more impressively as coming much more seldom; and summons us to those reflections which are appropriate to the occasion. Various subjects may then occupy our thoughts. Our own ever-shortening lives, and our rapidly approaching dissolution,-the great events to which time is bearing us onward, in which it shall issue, and after which it shall be no more,—the combustion of the earth, the passing away of the celestial canopy, the resurrection of the dead, the appearance of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven, the gathering of the nations around the great white throne, and the transactions and issues of the judgment day :—these, as events which are ever drawing nearer, year by year, may very properly become the subjects of meditation. Or we may find food for reflection in ourselves,-our spiritual condition in view of those events towards which we are hastening, the degree of our preparedness for those mighty changes, how much in our present character we have reason to be thankful for, and how much we have reason to deplore, how the wrong is to be remedied and the good strengthened, how the future may be distinguished by brighter experience and holier deeds, by the cultivation of Christian graces, the acquisition of useful knowledge, and the performance of Christlike work. Or we may call to remembrance God's dealings with us—the tokens of his displeasure which are fitted to humble us, and the expressions of his goodness which appeal to our gratitude, finding in them all something which will give a deeper tone to our devotions, render more joyous our songs of thanksgiving, and add to the truthfulness and devotedness of our

Of all these themes of meditation, the most pleasing which presents itself to us is the goodness by which the past year has been distinguished. “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness,” says the Psalmist; and the language is applicable to every year of our lives. Absolutely, indeed, one

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and comfort has surrounded the domestic hearth, because health has shed on us its genial influences, and qualified us for the enjoyment of life.

And we have been not less favoured in our persons than in our relations. Our bodies have not been racked with pain. Our faculties have performed without inconvenience their various functions. Our work has been a pleasure, because our physical frame has been competent to its performance. We have eaten our food with gladness, because He who provides the daily supply has given us the daily desire. Our sleep has been fraught with balmy blessings, because no feverish restlessness—the result of ill-health-has disturbed our nightly repose. The sunshine has brought gladness to our eyes, and the bracing influence of the atmosphere has caused our frame to throb with new and bounding life. Our very existence has been a luxury, because with a healthy physical system, all outward things have ministered to our enjoyment, while the healthy play of our various powers has been a pleasure in itself. With an organization wonderfully wrought, but easily deranged, the action of which the slightest accident might terminate, which a pestilential vapour might instantaneously destroy, which at any moment might cease to move, and for the maintenance of which a constant exercise of Omnipotence is necessary, we have been preserved in health and safety through the Ficissitudes of another year. Diseases have been flitting around us, but God has protected us from their assault, so that they have neither entered our dwelling nor fastened on our person.

Others have been prostrated by feebleness, and incapacitated for the duties of life; yet through the good hand of our God upon us, our limbs retain their vigour, and our nerves are not unstrung. The Providence which bas watched over us every moment, has kept us safe until this hour ; and at this season of retrospective reflection and renewed resolution, shall we not recognise the beneficence of our God, and resolve that not only shall our lips express our grateful acknowledgments, but that the devotedness of our future lives shall testify how thankful we are to Him whose goodness has crowned the year?

“ Shall I not sing praise to Thee,

Shall I not give thanks, O Lord,
Since in everything I see

How thy love keeps watch and ward
O'er us; how the truest love

Ever fills Thy heart, my God,
Bearing, cheering, on their road
All who in Thy service move?
All things else have but their day,
God's love only lasts for aye.
“ As the eagle o'er her nest

Spreads her sheltering wings abroad,
So from all that would molest,

Doth Thine arm defend me, Lord;
From my youth up e'en till now,

Of the being Thou didst give,
And the life that still I live,

Faithful guardian still wert Thou.
All things else have but their day,

God's love only lasts for aye." There are some of our readers, however, to whom these statements are not applicable. To you the year has not been without its trials ; you have been afflicted both in your person and your relations; and yet it year is not distinguishable from another in this respect. Whatever aspect Providence may assume towards us, we are bound to believe that God is always good—infinitely good; and that all his dealings with us are in harmony with, and an expression of, his goodness. For though sometimes there appears to be severity in his dispensations, what is his severity but goodness seeking in another way the fulfilment of its purposes, as a parent by chastisement seeks the welfare of his child? We speak of the judgments which in his Providence he inflicts, and very properly so, the Bible having set us the example; but the reason why Providence assumes that aspect is simply the evil which is in us, and from which it would drive us. It implies no change in his feelings-he is still good; and when we see those judgments in another light-when we look down on them from that lofty state where we shall know even as we are known-we shall see that, painful as they were, and judgments as we called them, they testified, no less than those dispensations which we called mercies, to the goodness of God. The clouds so dark to us are, on their sunward side, all bright and glorious, and even to us they are productive of good; so the providences which are so expressive of anger in relation to our sinfulness, are, in relation to the Divine Being, all radiant with love; and, to all who are rightly exercised by them, they are salutary in their influence. Accordingly, our purpose is not to speak of the past year as having been in a remarkable manner crowned by the Divine goodness, or as if in that respect it were absolutely superior to years that are gone, and to the years that are yet to come; but rather to notice those features in the year's history which, affording us the most sensible manifestations of goodness, appeal most directly and forcibly to our gratitude. Thus may we with suitable sentiments celebrate this division of time, interweaving with our devotions the words of the Psalmist, employ; ing them not as a form but as the fitting expression of our gratitude, and letting our lives as well as our lips testify how gratefully we recognise the goodness which we celebrate, as looking up to our Father in hearen we unite with all his works in saying, “ Thou crownest the year with thy goodness.”

It is frequently observed that we prize least those blessings which are most valuable, because, being most constantly enjoyed, our attention is not often directed to the degree to which they are conducive to our happiness. And it may be that, in calling to mind the goodness which has crowned the year, our readers are slow to think of the blessing of health. Yet among

the many grounds of thankfulness which we have, it is surely not the least that many of us can call to remembrance the almost unin. terrupted health of ourselves and our families. No shadow from the grave bas darkened our households. We look on no vacant chair, which once was filled. We miss the tones of no familiar voice. If some wear the weeds of mourning, which show that the destroyer has entered their dwellings, and that they mourn the loss of loved ones who are now no more, still there are not a few whose family circles remain unbroken. God in his goodness has preserved to us our loved ones.

Nor have we had to pass through the deep waters of affliction. Our hearts have not been wrung by witnessing in the objects of our affection the

agony which we could not relieve. We have had no nights of watching nor days of suspense, when the shadow of death hung over our dwelling, and the sounds of joy were displaced by the soft step, and the hushed breath, and the scarcely audible whisper, which become the chamber of sickness. The sounds of rejoicing have been heard in our homes,

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